Votes : 0

Fifth Sunday of Easter – Year A

Fernando Armellini - Sat, May 6th 2023


One of the primitive community characteristics described in the Apostles Acts is the absence of classes, titles, honorifics, prestige, or any recognized dignity of eminent members. All believers are considered with equality. No one would be called rabbi because there was only one Master, and they were only disciples. They felt themselves brothers and sisters, and no one claimed the title of father. They knew they had one Father in heaven (Mt 23:8-10).

Nor did they have degrees of holiness. ‘Saints’ was a collective title which they were fond of to refer to themselves. Paul addresses his letter “to the saints in Philippi ...” (Phil 1:1), “to the saints in Ephesus” (Eph 1:1) “to all of you, the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy” (Rom 1:7). Yet one distinction was recognized and held in high esteem: that of the ministry of service that each was called to perform in favor of their brothers and sisters.

The only Spirit—Paul reminds the Corinthians—enriches the community with diverse and complementary gifts: “to one he gives the language of science, to another that of wisdom, to another faith, to another the gift of healing. Another works miracles, another speaks in tongues and still, another interprets”, all for the common good (1 Cor 12:7-11).

Peter recommends to “serve one another with the gifts each of you received thus becoming good managers of the varied graces of God” (1 P 4:10). Our current communities are called to confront themselves with this ministerial Church, “whose cornerstone is Christ and whose foundations are the apostles” (Ephesians 2:20).

 To internalize the message, we repeat: “Let not the gifts that you have given swell us with pride, but the will to serve the brethren.”


First Reading: Acts 6:1-7

As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.


The passages of the Acts of the Apostles evoke an enchanting feeling. In it, Luke tells the memorable story of the first community of Jerusalem. The disciples were of one heart and mind. They participated daily in the catechesis of the apostles, shared goods, prayed together, celebrated the Eucharist weekly, and displayed extraordinary signs through the power of the Spirit. Perfect harmony reigned among them, and they enjoyed the esteem of all the people.

Was everything really going well in Jerusalem? Has the author of the Acts of the Apostles been lulled into a dream? Has he not confused his ideal with reality? The answer is easy and definite: he has transformed, idealized it without a shade of doubt. Actual events inspired him—the exceptional generosity of Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37), the radical change of feelings and relationships within the group of disciples after the resurrection of Christ—and generalized them to outline the image of a model Christian community.

The ecclesial reality, even in Jerusalem, was not so idyllic. Problems existed as in our communities. At one point, they came to the surface, even dramatically. That is the story that we find in today’s reading. The community was initially composed only of Jews, but they belonged to two distinct groups: Hebrews and the Hellenists. The former were born and raised in Palestine. They spoke Aramaic and frequented the synagogues where the Bible was read in Hebrew. They were strongly attached to the traditions of their fathers and the Law of Moses. They accepted and considered indisputable all the teachings and interpretations given by the rabbis.

The Hellenists were born and raised abroad. They also adopted lifestyles that their coreligionists considered misleading and corrupt through contact with other peoples they had known and appreciated. They felt free about the traditions and rules of the rabbis. They did not understand Hebrew, spoke in Greek (the language then used throughout the empire). In their synagogues, they read the Bible in the Greek translation.

This diversity of origin, language and mentality was the cause of tension between the two groups. One day the conflict erupted. The occasion was the manner of distribution of the community’s goods. The Hellenists, who were in the minority, began to complain that the Jews were favoring their own widows to the neglect of others. The situation became explosive. The great sympathy that the disciples enjoyed in front of all the people risked being marred.

The problem had to be solved. The apostles gathered and pointed to a possible solution: choose—they said—among you men who enjoy the esteem and confidence of all; they will be entrusted with the task of distributing goods to the poor, while we will devote ourselves to prayer and the proclamation of the Gospel. The proposal was accepted, and the matter was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Luke used the incident in the Book of Acts to cast light on the problems of his community where dissension, tension, disagreement, and lack of dialogue existed alongside the many signs of new life.

As always, Luke reveals himself as intelligent, optimistic, and balanced. His story is an invitation to evaluate the actual situation of each community with realism, wisdom, and patience. He wants to tell us that the Church is not made ??up of angels but people with particular mentalities, cultures, and ideologies, vastly different characters with many limitations. It is unfortunate and painful that prejudice, sectarianism, envy, jealousy, and misunderstanding emerge, but it is normal.

It even happened in the community of Jerusalem where exceptional people, the apostles, and Mary, the mother of the Lord, were present. The community of Jerusalem worked through this ‘incident’ maturely. It grew up, learned to solve its problems, and found a way to respond to its growing needs. It became ministerial. The apostles were not the only ones to carry out all duties. Other capable people assumed responsibilities that were not within the specific competence of the apostles.

Thus began what is now called the ministerial community. It is the community in which all members have equal dignity. The only honorific title is that of ‘servant.’Everyone “according to the grace received” puts himself in service of others (1 P 4:10). “Those who have the gift of prophecy give the insight of faith, the minister fulfills his office, and the teachers teach, the one who encourages, convinces, who presides is dedicated and who does works of charity is cheerful” (Rom 12:6-8).


Second Reading: 1 Peter 2:4-9

Beloved: Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it says in Scripture: Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, acornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame. Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, and A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall. They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.

You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.


Peter likens the Church to a spiritual building whose builder is God and whose living stones are people. The construction began with a solid rock as the foundation for the whole building: Christ on whom God has also placed other stones, those who believed in him, those newly baptized in the Easter Vigil as spoken about by the author. United with Jesus, they form a new, stunning temple (vv. 4-5). The Old Testament (Ps 118:22) announced that one day God would take the stone which the builders rejected and put it at the base of a new house (v. 6). The prophecy is fulfilled on the day of Passover. God chose Jesus, rejected by his people's political and religious leaders, and placed him as the foundation of the new sanctuary.

The ancient temple of Jerusalem was built with material stones. It was a place where the sacrifice of lambs and bulls was offered. A new temple replaced this wherein each one, together with Christ, immolates spiritual holocausts pleasing to God: holy, blameless, and a life filled with love works. By offering these sacrifices, every disciple becomes a priest in baptism.

In front of the neophytes, distinguished with a sublime dignity, the preacher is moved and exclaims: “Honor to you who believe!”; you have become “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God”; you are entrusted with the task of proclaiming through your life the wonderful works of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Then his face is sad. He thinks of those who refused the gift of God and have chosen to continue living like pagans. For them, the stone was not a source of salvation but an occasion for stumbling. The conflict foretold by Simeon is verified: “He is established for the falling and rising of many, a sign of contradiction so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed” (Lk 2:34-35).


Gospel: John 14:1-12

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.”


The passage in today’s Gospel is taken from the first of three farewell speeches pronounced by Jesus at the Last Supper after Judas went out to carry out his treason. They are called so because, in them, Jesus seems to dictate his last will before facing his passion and death. The liturgy invites them to ponder further for a very simple reason: a testament opens and acquires its meaning only after the death of the person who dictated it. The words spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper were not restricted to the apostles in the upper room but addressed to the disciples of all times. Easter is the most suitable time to understand and meditate on them.

The passage today begins with a phrase that could be misunderstood: “In my Father’shouse there are many rooms; otherwise, I would not have told you that I go to prepare a place for you. After I have gone and prepared a place for you, I shall come again and take you to me. Yet you know the way where I am going” (vv. 2-4).

Jesus seems to be saying that the time for him to go to heaven has come. He promises that there he will prepare a place for his disciples. This explanation is unsatisfactory because we believe that everything is already set in heaven. Then the idea of the numbered seat, corresponding to the various degrees of reward, with the danger that someone may not have a place to stay emerges, which does not enthuse at all.

The meaning of the sentence is different. It is much more concrete and relevant for us and the life of our communities. Jesus says he must go down a difficult ‘path.’ He adds that his disciples would have to know that ‘way’ extremely well because he often spoke of it.Thomas replies on behalf of all: we do not know this ‘way,’ and we cannot guess where you want to go. Jesus explains: he will be the first to run the ‘way.’ Once his mission is accomplished, he will be back and take the disciples with him. He will infuse them with his courage and strength, so they will be enabled to follow in his footsteps.

What the ‘way’ is, is now clear: It is the difficult path toward Easter. It demands the sacrifice of life. Jesus talked about it many times, but the disciples were always reluctant to understand. When he insisted on the ‘gift of life,’ they preferred to be distracted, thinking about something else.

In this perspective, the question about ‘the seats in the Father’s house’ becomes apparent. Whoever has agreed to follow the ‘way’ and traveled alongside Jesus finds himself immediately in the Kingdom of God, in the Father’s house. This house is not paradise but the Christian community. There are many places, that is, many services, many tasks to be performed in it. There are many ways in which the gift of life takes form. The ‘many places’ are nothing but the ‘various ministries,’ the different situations in which everyone is required to make available to the brethren their capacity, the many gifts received from God.

Until the Second Vatican Council, the laity was not considered an active member of the Church. They did not participate but ‘assisted’ in the Eucharist; they did not celebrate reconciliation; they went to ‘receive’ the absolution. They were often idle spectators at what the priests were doing. Today we understand that every Christian should be active, not because of a shortage of priests, but because everyone has work to do within the community.

Jesus says that during the ministry, there can be no motives for envy or jealousy. The ‘places,’ that is, the services to be rendered to the brethren, are many. The only ones who can remain idle are those not yet shaken by the newness of life, communicated by faith in the Risen Lord. Civil society is assessed based on power, the social prestige that confers the money it is paid for. The question: ‘What do you do?’ is equivalent to ‘How much do you earn?’ The place prepared by Jesus and each one is instead evaluated based on service: the better ‘place’ is to serve more and better the community.

The passage is a call for verification of community life: what is the percentage of active members? Are there commitments that no one wants to take? Are there competitions to grab responsibility for any assignment? Of the many ‘jobs’ prepared by Jesus, are there still many undiscovered ones? Are there ‘unemployed’ people? Why?

The second part of today’s Gospel (vv. 8-12) is centered on the question of Philip: “Lord, show us the Father and that is enough.” “Let me see your glory,” Moses asked the Lord, and God answered him: “You cannot see my face because man cannot see me and live” (Ex 33:18,20).

While conscious of this inability to contemplate the Lord, the pious Israelites continued to implore: “I seek your face, O Lord. Do not hide your face from me” (Ps 27:8-9); “My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When shall I go and see the face of God?” (Ps 42:3).

Philip seems to be an interpreter of this intimate yearning of the human heart. He knows that “no one has ever seen God” (John 1:18), because “he lives in unapproachable light and whom no one has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16); but also recalls the bliss reserved for the pure in heart: “for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8) and thinks that Jesus can satisfy his secret aspiration. He presents a demand that seems to echo sentiments expressed by Moses and by the psalmists.

In his response, Jesus shows the way to see God. We need to look at him. He is the human face that God has taken to manifest himself, to establish a relationship of intimacy, friendship, and the communion of life with people. He is “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), “the radiance of God’s glory and bears the stamp of God’s hidden being” (Heb 1:3). To know the Father does not require argument or reasoning. It is not worth getting lost in inadequate philosophical investigations. It is sufficient to contemplate Jesus, to observe what he does, says, teaches about how to behave, and how he loves those whom he prefers, attends to and caresses, and by whom he allows himself be caressed, with whom he dines, chooses, defends … because the Father does so. The work that Jesus fulfills is that of the Father (v.10).

There is a time when the Father fully reveals his face: on the cross. There he reveals his supreme love for people. The “radiance of his glory” (Hebrews 1:3) fully appears. There, his “light shines” (2 Cor 4:6) in its fullness. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” Jesus affirms (v. 9). But this seeing is not confined to the gaze of witnesses to events or his concrete gestures. It is a gaze of faith that is required, a look that can go beyond appearances, beyond purely material data, a look that captures the revelation of God in the works of Jesus.

This seeing is equivalent to believing. Whoever sees the Father in him, who grants him complete confidence and is prepared to risk their lives for his proposed values, will do the same work and even greater work. It is not about miracles but the total gift of self for love.The Father will continue to realize in the disciples the works of love he has accomplished in Jesus.


READ: The specific call and commissioning of the deacons. The familiar call of all Christians to become living stones—spiritual temples—of God. Those who are called will do the same works as Jesus did. 

REFLECT: Christian vocation is different from other worldly vocations in form and matter: for a Christian is called by God and commissioned. And the works are being done through them—the agency for the call and the task remains with the one who calls. “The Father who dwells in me is doing his own work,” says Jesus. Are we brave and open enough to let God do his work in and through us?

PRAY: Let us be convinced of our worth as God’s chosen ones. With dignity, let us dispel all doubts and disbelief so that we may be a channel of the Lord’s redemptive work.

ACT: Consecrate this day to God and ask him to use you as he wills. Observe what happens today.

share :
tags icon tags :
comments icon Without comments


write comment
Please enter the letters as they are shown in the image above.